What EU GDPR Means for B2B Marketing

What EU GDPR Means for B2B Marketing

Amidst the turbulence within the EU of late, a critical piece of legislation has arisen that threatens conventional marketing practices as we know them. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is taking shape and UK businesses must evolve to meet its requirements.

May 2018 will change the ways in which sales and marketing data can be used. This impending legislation will alter how data can be used for marketing communications, requiring swift adaptation by marketing organisations to avoid steep fines.

B2B email, telephone and SMS marketing will be the hardest hit; the GDPR will force organisations reliant on these means to re-align their marketing practices and teams so as to remain compliant.

Where did this legislation come from? What are the key details? How can we evolve our data practices to survive in this new landscape?

The Origin of the GDPR

We can trace the drive for the changes legislated in the GDPR back to January 2012. The problem of nuisance calls and the data protection rights of individuals led to intense debate as to what changes could be made to rein in the practices of some organisations reliant on mass-email and telephone marketing.

While the Data Protection Act (DPA) includes legislation on this subject, the need for further ‘tightening’ of consent and fair use of data was identified.

The GDPR was thus drafted and proposed. The legislation promised to both strengthen corporate and individual rights on use of data, and to unify those rights within the EU to simplify the governance of the new legislation.

Compliance and Consent

In short? Gone are the days of mass, untargeted marketing comms. The GDPR will, practically speaking, directly threaten the use of practices such “batch and blast” telesales and email campaigns which rely on bulk purchased data that is used in an untargeted manner.

The legislation tightens the laws provided within the Data Protection Act, drilling down further into the subject of obtaining consent from a data subject, as well as the ability for that subject to easily remove consent. As of May 2018, it will be required for consent to be verifiable, forcing organisations to maintain a clear record of how consent was obtained and when as well as requests to withdraw it.

Determining consent will also change, with different uses of data requiring either ‘unambiguous’ or ‘explicit’ consent. The former may be a saving grace, with certain post and telephone marketing permitted with the use of an opt-out or unsubscribe system.

Data will, however, be required to be targeted to a more accurate degree so that ‘legitimate interest’ from the customer may be argued; this means that B2B organisations must ensure that their content is relevant to the job role of those they contact. This stricter regulation will apply to business email addresses as well as personal ones such as Gmail or Yahoo.


Although Brexit technically removes the UK from having to comply with the GDPR outright, compliance to the GDPR is expected to allow continued trading with the EU in future. The UK exports around 40% of all its exports to the EU so a trade agreement that includes the UK’s adherence to EU data protection regulation is most likely.

What Does This Mean for B2B Marketers?

The fines for noncompliance will be significant. The EU could impose fines of up to twenty million Euros or 4% of their annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater. This is expected to cost UK firms in excess of one hundred billion pounds, in addition to business disruption and damage to reputation.

What is clear is that this legislation seeks to tighten the laws established in the Data Protection Act in addition to providing more granularity. As with any new legislation, we must wait and see to what extent the various specifics of GDPR are enforced.

The writing is on the wall, however. As of May 2018, B2B marketing communications in particular will be more restricted, forced to comply to legislation to a degree not previously mandated by the DPA.

Is Your Business Ready?

Fortunately, we have time to adapt before May 2018 arrives and GDPR comes into effect. This provides an opportune time for marketing organisations to change their practices in advance to ease through the transition and adapt to new methods that will become more optimal than was previously the case.

Channels that previously may have been less desirable will become critical to B2B marketing. Successful organisations will benefit through increasing spend in these areas, such as Pay Per Click and digital marketing. These channels will become more cost-effective in comparison to telesales and email, meaning that a diverse multi-channel marketing (and sales) strategy is vital for business growth.

You have fourteen months to prepare.

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